Recognizing/ Denying the Criminal Nature of Wartime Sexual Violence: The Case of the German and the Japanese Army in WWII
To date, the Japanese government persistently tries to deny the criminal nature of the WWII "comfort stations", in which tenthousands of women were sexually enslaved to strengthen "the body and spirit of the Japanese soldier". Observing this from Germany, I am struck by the question: Why does Japan mobilize so much resources and energy to obliterate the historical reality? As a matter of fact, the German case also suggests that there is a particularity to acknowledging sexual crimes and dealing with its consequences. While present-day Germany is willing to acknowledge the German role in WWII and the Holocaust, sexual violence is remarkably and persistently absent from such discourses.
In my lecture, I want to explore both cases and discuss a similarity, namely that in both countries this form of violence seems to be treated in particular ways, which differ from the treatment of other forms of violence. Why is this the case? And what does it mean?
Regina Mühlhäuser is a senior Researcher at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Culture and an Associate Researcher at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in Germany. She is the coordinator of the "International Research Group 'Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict'" (SVAC; www.warandgender.net). Regina has studied History, New German Literature and Korean Studies at the University of Hamburg and received her Ph.D. in 2008 at the University of Cologne. She specialises in 20th century history, and her book Eroberungen. Sexuelle Gewalttaten und intime Beziehungen deutscher Soldaten in der Sowjetunion, 1941–1945 (2010) has been translated into Japanese (2015) and is forthcoming in English (Conquests. Sexual Violence and intimate Relations of German Soldiers in the Soviet Union). In 1994, Regina has conducted field work in Korea and China, interviewing former »comfort women«, who had been sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. Currently she is working on the project »On All Fronts: A Comparative Study of How Sexual Violence Was Dealt With during World War II«. Her most recent work on different conceptions of sexual violence as weapon of war and genocide has been published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality (2017).
This lecture is part of the lecture series "Gender and Sexuality in Transnational East Asia" organized by Shuxuan Zhou and Hyun Gyung Kim.